Marine mammals are some of the most beloved animals in our ocean. Whether you have a soft spot for majestic whales, playful seals or adorable sea otters, you have reason to celebrate. Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an important piece of legislation that protects all marine mammal species found in U.S. waters.
The Act protects whales, dolphins, polar bears, walruses and many other marine mammals (approximately 125 species). This Act “prohibits, with certain exceptions, the ‘take’ of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the US.” This means any attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill marine mammals is illegal without special permits.
Some threats faced by marine mammals face come from boaters and tourists. You can reduce these threats by following the guidelines developed by NOAA for responsible marine wildlife viewing. The guidelines may differ slightly by region or species, but there are also general rules to follow if you encounter a marine mammal in the wild—such as keep a respectful distance, and never attempt to touch or feed the animal.
The Marine Mammal Protection Act has given threatened and endangered species a chance to rebound. Hopefully, with increased awareness and continued protection, the marine mammals we love will continue to thrive in our ocean, and people will enjoy these amazing animals for generations to come.